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Regionalism in Hellenistic and Roman Asia Minor

Hugh Elton
Gary Reger

The Foundation of Laodikeia on the Lykos An Example of Hellenistic City Foundations in Asia Minor

Thomas Corsten

Texte intégral

1The city of Laodikeia on the Lykos was founded by Antiochos II in the fifties of the third century BC. Situated near modern Denizli, Laodikeia was in a strategically favorable situation overlooking the valley of the Lykos, a tributary of the Maiandros, occupying the almost square top of a flat hill in front of a mountain range. This location is of special importance because it is at a crossroads of routes from both the Aegean and the Mediterranean coasts to the hinterland, to the north with Sardeis, and to the east with the center of the old Persian and the Seleukid empires.

  • 1 IK, 49-Laodikeia, 2.
  • 2 Robert 1936b, 126 (= Robert 1969-1990, 2.1205).
  • 3 εἶναι δὲ ψήφισμα τοῦτο έπι σωτηρίας τῆς πόλεως.
  • 4 Gschnitzer 1983.

2Laodikeia was founded as a Greek city; therefore its inscriptions mention right from the beginning normal Greek institutions like the boule and the demos and an eponymous official (the priest of the personified city, ὶερεὺς τὴς πóλεως). The highest official was the strategos, who resided in the strategion to which an inscription from about 200 BC already bears witness1. Despite the city’s seemingly pure Greek character, the inhabitants must have had different backgrounds, some of them not even Greek at all. The most influential group of Greeks must have come from the Ionian coast. We can deduce this from the city tribe Ias, from the Ionian form of the name of the month Antiocheon2, and from a formula by which priority is attributed to a psephisma with the wording: “The psephisma shall be for the city’s salvation”3. This formula is typical of Ionian cities where we find many parallels4.

  • 5 Burstein 1985, 24-25, no 19.

Βασιλευόντων Άντιόχου και [Σ]-

In the reign of the Kings Antiochos and Seleukos,

ελεύκου πέμτου καὶ τεσαρακο-

forty-fifth year [267 BC],

στοῦ ἔτους, μηνὸς Περιτίου, ἐ-

month Peritios, when Helenos was overseer


π’ Ἐλένου ἐπιμελητοῦ τοῦ τό[πο]υ ἐκκλησί-

of the topos, an assembly having been held

ας γενομένης ἔδοξε Νεοτειχείταις

it was resolved by the inhabitants of Neo-

καὶ Κιδδιοκωμίταις ἐπειδὴ Βανά-

teichos and of Kiddiokome. Since Bana-

βηλος ὁ τὰ Ἀχαιού οἰκονόμῶν καὶ Λα-

belos, the steward of Achaios, and Lachares,


χάρης Πάπου ἐγλογιστὴς τῶν

son of Papos, the accountant of the estate of

Ἀχαιοῦ εὐεργέται αὐτῶν γεγένηντ-

Achaios, have been their benefactors

αι κατὰ πάντα καὶ κοινῆι καὶ ἰδίαι ἐκάσ-

always, and publicly and privately

του ἀντειλημμένοι εἰσὶν κατά τ[ò]-

they aided each individual during the


μ πόλεμον τον Γαλατικòν καὶ πολ-

Galatian War; and since, when many

λῶν ἀυτῶν γενομένων αιχ[μ]α-

had been taken prisoners

λώτων υπò τῶν Γαλατῶν ἐμφα-

by the Galatians, by revealing it

νίσαντες Ἀχαιῶ[ι] ἐ[λυτ]ρώ[σα]ντο,

to Achaios, they brought about their ransom,


ἐπαίνέσαν τε αυτοὺς καὶ

they shall praise them and inscribe


their benefaction on a stone

τὴν εὐεργεσίαν αὐτῶν εἰς τῶι

stele and set it up in the

τοῦ Διòς ἱερώι ἐμ Βάβα κώμηι καὶ

sanctuary of Zeus in Baba kome and


ἐν τῶι τοῦ Ἀπόλωνος ἐν Κιδδίου

in that of Apollon in Kiddiou kome; they

κώμηι, δεδόσθαι δὲ αὐτοῖς καὶ ἐγγóνοις

shall also grant to them and their descendants

εἰς πάντα τòν χρόνον προεδρίαν

for all time a front seat

ἐν ταῖς δημοτελέσιν ἑορταῖς,

at the public festivals and they


θύειν δέ καὶ Ἀχαιῶι κυρίωι τοῦ τó-

shall sacrifice to Achaios, the master of the

που καὶ σωτῆρι κατ’ ἐνιαυτòν

topos and their savior, yearly

ἐμ μὲν τῶι τοῦ Διòς ἱερώι βοῦν,

in the sanctuary of Zeus a bull, and to

Λαχάρηι καὶ Βαναβήλωι εὐεργέται[ς]

Lachares and Banabelos, their benefactors,


κριοὺς δύο έν τώι τ[ού Ἀ]πόλλωνος

two rams in the sanctuary of Apollo, in

ἱερῶι τῶι ἐγ Κιδδίου κώμηι, ἱερεῖα τρία

Kiddiou kome, three sacrificial victims; in or-

ὅπως είδ[ῶ]σαι καὶ οἱ ἅλλοι, ὅτι Νεοτ[ει]-

der that others also may know that the Neo-

χεῖτοα καὶ Κι[δ]διοκωμῖται, ὑφ’ ὧ[ν]

teicheitai and Kiddiokomitai, with regard to


ἅν τι πάθωσι άγαθ[ό]ν, ἐπίσταν-

those from whom they have received some benefit,

ται τιμάς ἀνττδτδόναι.

Understand how to award honors in return5.

  • 6 The inscription was first published by Wörrle 1975; now IK, 49-Laodikeia, 1.

3There were, however, other ethnic groups in Laodikeia. The inscriptions provide us with some Persian names like Mithres, indigenous names are not rare, and, of course, Jews were settled there. It is interesting to see how these different people were welded together. A long inscription, found in the 1970s near Laodikeia, sheds some new light on this question and enables us to take the foundation of Laodikeia as a case study for what must have been a normal procedure in Hellenistic times6.

4The inscription, in a rather careless lettering, is dated into the year 45 of the Seleukid era, that is 267 BC. The Kings were Antiochos I and his son Seleukos, who was later executed. The context is made clear by the mentioning of Galatians: these people, who came from the Balkans, plundered extensive parts of Asia Minor and reached the Lykos valley. However, Laodikeia is mentioned nowhere in the text. The first editor, Michael Wörrle, had already explained this by the fact that the city had not yet been founded; instead, there were several settlements. The Galatians attacked the villages and abducted many people who were only rescued by intervention of the two men in whose honor the inscription was erected, Banabelos and Lachares. These men were in effect managers of Achaios’s estate, on whose land the villages obviously lay. Achaios himself, named four times in the inscription (in l. 7, 9, 15, and 24) was a relative of the kings and the grandfather of the famous Achaios who later revolted against Antiochos the Great.

  • 7 For all this, see already Wörrle’s thorough and detailed commentary.
  • 8 Zgusta 1984, 112 s. v. Βαβακώμη.

5At first, before the conquest by Alexander the Great, before the Seleukids and Achaios, there must have been two villages where later Laodikeia was to be founded. These villages were inhabited by indigenous people as one can see from their names. Kiddiou is the genitive of Kiddios or Kiddias, a personal name, occasionally attested in Asia Minor. The second name, in the genitive Baba, may well be derived from another personal name, from Babas7. But this is not the only possibility, and already Ladislaw Zgusta in his book on Anatolian place names thought it possible to derive Baba from a god’s name8. I will return to this point later. All the same, it is clear that these words are of Anatolian origin and that the villagers were indigenous farmers.

  • 9 Welles 1934, 60-71, no 10-13. The explanation of the character of Neon Teichos owes much to the he (...)

6The most interesting part of the inscription for our purpose is the strange relationship, at first glance, between the settlements. Besides the two villages, there was a fortress with the name Neon Teichos, “New Castle”. This stronghold might have been a fortified settlement or manor, probably established by Achaios or one of his predecessors for the protection of the population. It would thus be comparable to the place called “Petra” on the land of Aristodikides, given to him by king Antiochos I9. The Greek name Neon Teichos does not necessarily mean that Greeks settled there, but simply that the founder, either Achaios or an earlier owner of the estate, was Greek.

7Despite the fact that there were three settlements, the decree was issued by only two of them, Neon Teichos and Kiddiou kome (l. 5 and 6). These settlements must have combined into a joint administration with joint assemblies as is stated in l. 4-5: ekklesias genomenes in the singular. The other village, Baba kome, is not mentioned. The situation is, however, different when it comes to erecting the honorary inscription: this is to be done in Kiddiou kome and in Baba kome, but not in Neon Teichos (l. 16-21). This strange relationship can probably be explained by taking a closer look at the interplay of administration and cult as it is reflected in the inscription.

  • 10 Ἔδοξε Νεοτενχείταις καὶ Κιδδιοκωμίταις.

8In the period after Alexander’s conquest of Asia Minor, the two villages were Hellenized as can be seen from the text of the inscription. The inhabitants adopted Greek administrative structures and formulae. They held assemblies and called them ekklesia (l. 4-5), they used Greek formulae when issuing a decree (l. 5-6)10, and when conferring honors on their benefactors (l. 16-23), and finally we find the “formule hortative” in l. 30-33–in plain language the wish to receive more benefactions.

9I already mentioned the puzzling fact that Kiddiou kome was involved in the issuing of the decree (line 6) as well as in the erection of an honorary stele (l. 20-21), whereas Baba kome is being called upon only for the erection of a stele (line 19), but has no influence on the passing of the decree. This can only mean that the last mentioned village had no share in the administration of the community which consisted of these three settlements. The reason is clear from the text of the inscription: the stelai were to be placed in sanctuaries, and from the fact that there was no stele in Neon Teichos it follows that there was no appropriate sanctuary in Neon Teichos. And from this follows in turn that Neon Teichos and Baba kome constituted a single entity, within which Baba kome had no political autonomy and was subordinated to Neon Teichos, whereas the sanctuary for both was in Baba kome, which must have been an old and respected cult place. Kiddiou kome, however, kept its political and religious autonomy.

10What is important as far as the explanation of the name Baba kome and the foundation of Laodikeia are concerned are the names of the gods in whose sanctuaries the stelae were erected: they are Apollo and Zeus. Of course, the cults were indigenous, but once Hellenized the gods were identified with Greek gods and took their names. The god in Kiddiou kome was in this way identified with Apollo. We do not know what his Anatolian name was, nor do we know the Anatolian name of the Sky God in Baba kome, in Greek Zeus. However, I have already pointed to Zgusta’s suggestion that Baba in Baba kome could be the genitive of a god’s name. If this is true, i. e. if the people of Baba kome worshiped Zeus, and if the village was named after its main god, then the Sky God was called Babas in the indigenous language, which must have been Phrygian.

  • 11 Arr., Bith,. frg. 23 Roos (Eustathios on Hom., Il., 5.408 = FGrH 156 F 22).

11A god of this name is not known yet, but he can be compared with the Bithynian Papas, who was also worshiped in northern Phrygia. The Bithynians identified him with the Greek Zeus, as Arrian writes11. Furthermore, in Dorylaion, also in northern Phrygia, a god by the similar name of Papias was venerated, and he, too, was identified with Zeus. Therefore, I think that the south Phrygian Babas as well as the north Phrygian and Bithynian god Papas/Papias showed certain traits that led to an identification with the Greek Zeus. Baba kome would then mean “Village of (the god) Babas”. Villages named after a god are not rare; we need only think of Dionysopolis, Metropolis, where the Anatolian Mother Goddess was worshiped or, closer to Baba kome, Gerga kome.

12Now it is also possible to understand a phrase in Pliny’s Natural History: “Laodikeia was first called Diospolis”, Laodicea... appellata primo Diospolis. “Diospolis”, purely Greek, compounded of the genitive of Zeus and polis, should be the Greek translation of the indigenous place name which was also the basis for the form Baba kome represented in the inscription.

  • 12 For example SNG Aulock 3809; 3812; 3821-21; 3823-4; 3830; 3834-5; 3840; 3844 etc.
  • 13 SNG Aulock 3868-3870.

13It was only a few years after the erection of the honorary inscription that a Greek city was founded in the region of the three settlements. It received the dynastic name of Laodikeia after Laodike, the king’s wife. The principal gods of the city were Apollo and Zeus. Zeus Laodikenos is depicted on many Laodikean coins12. One representation of the god is especially important in this respect, the representation on the so-called “Homonoia-coins”. These coins always depicted the principal gods of the cities which concluded homonoia, and in the case of Laodikeia this is Zeus Laodikenos. As an example, we can take a Homonoia-coin from Laodikeia and Ephesos: for Ephesos stands the Ephesian Artemis and for Laodikeia Zeus Laodikenos13.

  • 14 IK 49-Laodikeia, 63.

14That this Zeus is not the “normal” Greek god is proved, for example, by a relief in the museum of Denizli on which the god is shown wearing a strange kind of coat, obviously made from a sheep’s skin14. This must have been connected with the product for which Laodikeia was known world-wide, its famous wool.

15But also Apollo was of some importance in Laodikeia, and he or his attributes were depicted on coins, too. He was the god of the Seleukids, the protector of the royal house, after whom a phyle of the city was also named. However, his cult may have been connected with an indigenous cult, that of Apollo in Kiddiou kome.

16When the city of Laodikeia was founded from the two indigenous villages and the castle Neon Teichos, the principal village cults became the principal cults of the new city. Cult had an important function in the people’s daily life. The common worship of certain divinities created a feeling of community, the feeling that one belonged to a group of people who were connected by a bond that distinguished them from others, most importantly from their neighbors. This feeling was particularly strong during festivals: celebrating together, having a party, meant eating, drinking, singing together, and this activity connects people. The Greeks called this euochia, “well-being”, which came to mean also “abundance” and “festivities”.

17With the foundation of the city of Laodikeia, the inhabitants of the hitherto autonomous villages were welded into a single community, particularly through the elevation of the village cults to the status of city cults. In this manner, the people were allowed, even obliged, to participate in common cult practice, notwithstanding their former membership of one of the settlements. And since religion and politics were thoroughly interwoven in antiquity, the common cult provided a basis for the development of a common identity, a sense of community. In language and script Greek became more and more dominant because the Greeks on the site were superior in strength and the Phrygians made only limited use of their alphabet. This process of Hellenization had already begun before the city was founded, when the villages enjoyed partial independence, as the inscription shows. On the other hand, the careless script, numerous mistakes and some addenda in the text above the lines bear testimony to the stone mason’s limited practice.

18To sum up: The foundation of Laodikeia in Phrygia and the preceding events, changes, and developments allow a closer look at the different forms of settlements and political organization in Asia Minor as well as at the importance of religion for the sense of community and identity of the people. However, before Laodikeia was founded at a strategically important place, there were some indigenous villages on the estate of a nobleman, to which first was added a stronghold. The presence of Greeks led to the Hellenization of the region. The indigenous divinities were identified with Greek gods and the administrative structures were adapted to and even imitated from Greek practice. It was particularly the religion that finally made merging the villagers into citizens of the new city easier by elevating the village cults to city cults. Through common cults, which originated in old, traditional ideas, but which were already interspersed with Greek elements, a new identity was created which held the people together and made them members of a city, common to all of them.


1 IK, 49-Laodikeia, 2.

2 Robert 1936b, 126 (= Robert 1969-1990, 2.1205).

3 εἶναι δὲ ψήφισμα τοῦτο έπι σωτηρίας τῆς πόλεως.

4 Gschnitzer 1983.

5 Burstein 1985, 24-25, no 19.

6 The inscription was first published by Wörrle 1975; now IK, 49-Laodikeia, 1.

7 For all this, see already Wörrle’s thorough and detailed commentary.

8 Zgusta 1984, 112 s. v. Βαβακώμη.

9 Welles 1934, 60-71, no 10-13. The explanation of the character of Neon Teichos owes much to the helpful discussion following the paper, especially to comments made by A. Gregory and R. Billows.

10 Ἔδοξε Νεοτενχείταις καὶ Κιδδιοκωμίταις.

11 Arr., Bith,. frg. 23 Roos (Eustathios on Hom., Il., 5.408 = FGrH 156 F 22).

12 For example SNG Aulock 3809; 3812; 3821-21; 3823-4; 3830; 3834-5; 3840; 3844 etc.

13 SNG Aulock 3868-3870.

14 IK 49-Laodikeia, 63.


Seminar für Alte Geschichte und Epigraphik, Universität Heidelberg

© Ausonius Éditions, 2007

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